|"I continued the trigger bursts until the barrel began to steam. In front of me was a large pile of dead bodies. I ran around the ridge from gun to gun trying to keep each gun firing, but at each emplacement I only found dead Marine gunners. I knew then that I must be all alone."|
Over the last couple weeks, I've included quite a few badasses who accomplished some ridiculously insane acts of large-sacked bravery without so much as face-punching a person unconscious, hitting man-eating beasts with shovels, or flinging a couple dozen grenades into enemy pillboxes. So, with Veteran's Day around the corner, it's due time for me to tell the tale of one man who, in a single night of scrotum-crushing carnage, killed more than enough people for an entire month's worth of Badass of the Week content – badass United States Marine Corps Sergeant Mitchell Paige.
Born Mitchell Pejic in 1918, the son of Serb immigrants, "Mitch" was always interested in doing things that kicked ass. He went out and learned how to tie a bunch of freakalicious knots and start raging bonfires simply by banging kindling together somehow, becoming an Eagle Scout in 1936, and once he'd made Eagle he didn't even wait around to pick up his award before packing his shit up and joining the Marine Corps. He went through the ball-busting rigors of boot camp, served as a gunner on the battleship Wyoming, played on the all-Navy-Marine baseball team, and once pummeled a Japanese officer senseless in a huge barroom brawl in Beijing when that fucking doucheburger had the audacity to try and impale our boy Mitch through the neck with a goddamned samurai sword when he wasn't looking. Sure, almost being decapitated was fun and all, but it was after all that unpleasantness at Pearl Harbor went down that things got a little more serious. Mitch got so pissed he started spitting blood, and was immediately shipped off with the 7th Marines to demonstrate the appropriate way of handling a situation in which someone is begging to be kicked in the throat with a well-polished boot.
When the 7th Marines landed on Guadalcanal in 1942, Mitchell Paige was already a Platoon Sergeant in command of a machine gun section. Now, in terms of things being so ungodly terrible that you want to puncture your own face with a letter opener, Guadalcanal was pretty much an epic clusterfuck on par with the Star Wars prequel trilogy or Saturday Night Live post-Tina Fey. The Americans were intent on capturing and holding a vital airfield to further establish their presence as big dogs in the Pacific and take the fight to the Japanese homeland, and the Japanese were understandably a little hesitant to allow the Yanks the ability to start sending bombers on strafing runs over downtown Tokyo. The Marines were able to get a slight foothold on the island at first, but relentless attacks from super-pissed Japanese asskickers and insane amounts of heavily-armed enemy aircraft, giant warships, malaria-infected mosquitoes, and fully-loaded troop transports made the entire affair essentially a massive exercise in sucking balls. At one point during the campaign things were looking so hopeless that the Marines were actually given the go-ahead to surrender the island to the Imperial Japanese Army.
Well if the American high command wanted their forces to surrender, they shouldn't have sent in the Marines.
The Marine effort at Guadalcanal can be almost completely encapsulated in the actions of one neck-breaking buzz saw of asswhomping bloodlust – Sergeant Mitchell Paige. At 2 am on 26 October 1942, Paige was stationed in his foxhole on the perimeter of the American lines, when suddenly he noticed a massive throng of Japanese assembly lights in the forest before him. Within a few minutes, his small, 33-man machine gun platoon was facing off against a seemingly-unstoppable advance of roughly 2,500 Japanese men and officers – a full regiment of Imperial soldiers eager to crack skulls and shred faces. Well, as I said before, the Marines don't back down without a fight, and as soon as the first wave of infantry was close enough that he could hear the clinking of their canteens, Paige leapt up and ordered his men to start kicking some ass.
A dump truck's worth of bullets mowed down the surprised Japanese troops, exploding many of them into red mist and sending the rest spiraling to the ground. This is great and all for the Americans, but I should also say that part of the reason why the Pacific War was so brutal was because neither side was going to back down just because they were getting torn up by bullets and explosions, and the heavy thumping of Paige's machine gun platoon only served to make the Japanese even more ripshit pissed out of their minds. A second wave of determined warriors charged ahead, plowing through no-man's land, and before long the horde of bayonet-and-rifle swinging infantrymen charged pointy-end-first into the Marine foxholes. At one point during the close-quarters, hand-to-hand fighting Mitch's hand was slashed badly by a Japanese bayonet, crippling his ability at taking on his enemies in vicious thumb-fighting duels, but he still managed to kill the dude with a ka-bar to the throat. Pulling himself up, Paige got right back to manning his machine gun. This rampaging human chaingun continued firing at everything that didn't have a Marine Corps helmet on, blasting away in every direction Smash TV-style while blood was exploding all over the place. When he ran out of targets, he repositioned his gun to a location that provided more targets. When his gun overheated, he changed it out for another. He was like fucking John Matrix fragging an entire hacienda of soldiers at the end of Commando or some shit. After an insane couple of hours of near-constant battle, Mitch ran down the line to pump up his men, only to realize that he was the last guy standing – it was him, by himself, surrounded by a full regiment of Japanese on all sides.
Mitchell Paige somehow managed to clear a path through the enemy, and by chance he discovered a small group of Marines heading his direction. Paige ran out, took one look at them, unhooked his machine gun from its tripod, and ordered the men to, "fix bayonets and follow me."
Carrying the machine gun under his arm Rambo-style, Paige led little more than a dozen Marines on a full-on fucking bayonet charge against a couple thousand take-no-bullshit Japanese troops in what should have amounted to little more than a suicide mission. The Japanese soldiers, however, disoriented and out of position in the pitch-dark night, didn't seem to realize what the deuce was happening and actually began to fall back and retreat in the face of this pointy onslaught. At one point, an Imperial officer jumped up, fired an entire clip of pistol ammunition at Mitch, and then rushed after him with his samurai sword, but Paige cut him down with a burst of automatic weapons fire. The Japanese called off their attack, and ten hours after the first gunshots were fired, Mitchell Paige still held his position. He won the Medal of Honor for his actions, becoming one of only seven men to be both Eagle Scouts and Medal of Honor recipients.
After Guadalcanal, Mitch transferred to Australia, where he finished up the war. He made officer, retired as a Colonel in 1959, and went on to achieve the great honor of having a G.I. Joe action figure modeled after him. He dedicated the later part of his life to tracking down dickheads who owned or sold fake Medals of Honor, and died in 2003 at the age of 85 - a man who took on an army by himself and somehow emerged victorious.
Who's Who in Marine Corps History
Clark, Johnnie. Gunner's Glory. Random House, 2004.
Collier, Peter. Medal of Honor. Artisan, 2006.
Paige, Mitchell. A Marine Named Mitch. Vantage, 1975.
Smith, Larry. Beyond Glory. W.W. Norton, 2004.
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